One of the biggest festivals in the country is the Thimphu Tshechu. This festival is held in the capital city for three days beginning on 10th day of the 8th month of lunar calendar. This Tshechu is witnessed by thousands of people many of which travel from neighboring Dzongkhags (districts) to attend the festivities. The actual Tshechu is preceded by days and nights of prayer and rituals to invoke the gods.
When it was initiated by the 4th Desi, Gyalse Tenzin Rabgay in 1867 the Tshechu consisted of only a few dances being performed strictly by monks. These were the Zhana chham and the Zhana Nga chham (Dances of the 21 Black Hats), Durdag (Dance of the Lords of the Cremation Ground), and the Tungam chham (Dance of the Terrifying Deities).
The Thimphu Tshechu underwent a change in the 1950s, when the third King Jigme Dorji Wangchuck, introduced numerous Boed chhams (mask dances performed by lay monks). These additions added colour and variation to the festival without compromising its spiritual significance. Mask dances like the Guru Tshengye (Eight Manifestations of Guru), Shaw Shachi (Dance of the Stags) are enjoyed because they are similar to stage-theater.
Equally important are the Atsaras, who are more than just mere clowns. The Atsaras are the dupthobs (acharyas), who provide protection. The dances and the jesting of the Atsaras are believed to entrance evil forces and prevent them from causing harm during Tshechus. Modern Atsaras also perform short skits to disseminate health and social awareness messages.
To farmers, the Tshechu is also seen as a break from farm life. It’s an occasion to celebrate, receive blessings and pray for health and happiness.
Besides the annual three day Tshechu, Thimphu also celebrates a one day festival known as the Thimphu Dromchoe. The day long festival dates back to the 17th century. It was first introduced by Kuenga Gyeltshen in 1710, who was recognized as the reincarnation of Jampel Dorji, son of Zhabdrung Nawang Namgyel. The dromchoe is celebrated 3 days prior to the Thimphu Tshechu.
The Dromchoe showcases the sacred dances dedicated to the chief protective deity of Bhutan, Palden Lhamo. Legend has it, that the deity Pelden Lhamo appeared before Kuenga Gyeltshen and performed the dances while he was in meditation. Based on these dances, Kuenga Gyaltshen initiated the Dromchoe.
Day 01 Oct 2 Thursday :Arrive Paro & Paro-Thimphu
(Distance: 54 km, estimated driving time: 1 hr)
Fly into Paro by DrukAir ( Royal Bhutan Airlines). After completing your immigration formalities, you will be received by our representative who will be your tour guide throughout your tour.
Then drive to Thimphu . On arrival at Thimphu check into your hotel and after lunch we start our sightseeing in and around thimphu.
Overnight at a hotel in Thimphu.
Day 02 Oct 3 Friday: 1st Day of Thimphu Tshechu (Festival)- (9.am – 4.30 pm)
After breakfast you will go to witness the 1st Day of Thimphu Tshechu (Festival), one of the biggest festivals in the country. This festival is held in the capital city for three days beginning on 10th day of the 8th month of lunar calendar. Dressed in traditional finery, devotees flock to Tendrel Thang (the festival ground in front of Thimphu Tashichhodzong) to proclaim their faith and receive blessings. Monks and lay people, dressed in elaborate silk brocade costumes perform festive dances of good triumphing over evil to the haunting sounds of trumpets, cymbals and flutes. The dances and costumes have survived unchanged for thousands of years, each dance is an exact re-enactment of visions seen by Bhutan’s great Buddhist saints and any changes would be seen as sacrilege. The dances are interspersed with folk songs and clowning. The festival is a magnificent cacophony of sound and colour and a photographer’s delight.
You will take off sometime from the festival to visit Tashichhoe Dzong, a fortress of the glorious religion. It was built in 1641 by Zhabdrung Ngawang Namgyel and was reconstructed into present structure by the late King, His majesty Jigme Dorji Wangchuck in the year 1962-1969. It houses the secretariat building, the throne room and the office of the king, and the central monk body.
Overnight at the same hotel in Thimphu.
Day 03 Oct 4 Saturday: Thimphu-Punakha & Punakha Sightseeing
Distance:71 km, estimated travel time: 2½ hrs
After breakfast, travel to Punakha & Wangdue region through Dochula Pass 3140 m). In the clear sky; enjoy the panoramic view of the Himalayan Mountain ranges. Then pass by the beautiful 108 chortens built on the hill by Her Majesty Ashi Dorji Wangmo Wangchuck (Queen Mother of Bhutan) for the security and well being of His Majesty, the King of Bhutan.
You will also visit Druk Wangyal Lhakhang (monastery) which was built by Ashi Dorji Wangmo Wangchuck ( the Queen Mother of Bhutan) as a tribute to His Majesty the fourth King of Bhutan, Jigme Singye Wangchuck and armed forces after His Majesty led a successful operation against Indian militants who had occupied certain areas of Bhutan. The gallery of the Druk Wangyal Lhakhang has beautiful murals depicting some of the important events in the reigns of the Kings of Bhutan. This is a unique feature of this monastery that no other monastery in Bhutan has.
You will stop for a refreshment at Dochula Pass Resort and then drive onto Punakha.Punakha has been inextricably linked to some of the most momentous events in the Bhutanese history and deserves its reputation as one of the most beautiful and significant regions at the heart of Bhutanese culture.Punakha had served as the capital of Bhutan from 1637 till 1907 and the 1st National Assembly was held there. The dzong is historically important and stands as the symbol for a unified Bhutan.
On the way, stop for lunch at Metsina village and then visit theDevine Madman’s Monastery-Chhimi Lhakhang, famously known for its fertility shrine, where one can receive a special fertility blessing.
Then visit the Punakha Dzong, located on the island of the Pho – Chu (male river) and the Mochu (female river). The dzong was built in 1637 by Zhabdrung Ngawang Namgyal (the person who unified Bhutan) to serve as the religious and administrative seat of the region. It was here that the dual system of government was introduced in the 17th century and in 1907, enthroned the first King Gongsar Ugyen Wangchuck. Damaged over the centuries by four catastrophic fires and an earthquake, the dzong has been fully restored in the recent years by the 4th King Jigme Singye Wangchuck.At the dzong, you can see the highest standards in woodwork.
In the late afternoon drive back to Thimphu and overnight at a hotel in Thimphu.
Day 04 Oct 5 Sunday: Last Day of Thimphu Tshechu (Festival)- (9.am – 4.30 pm) & Thimphu-Paro
After breakfast you will go to witness Last Day of Thimphu Tshechu (Festival) which is the most spectacular one with religious dance performances mixed with folk dances and dance of Bhutanese warriors. People from all walks of life gather at the festival in their finest dresses and ornaments.
After the festival drive to Paro and visit the following:
Paro Dzong, a fine example of Bhutanese historic architecture. It is also known as the Rinpung Dzong which means a “fortress that sits on a heap of jewels”. This imposing dzong located above the Paro river is a fine example of Bhutanese architecture with its inward sloping walls that rise to an impressive height.The dzong was built in the 16th century on the foundation of a monastery built by Guru Rinpoche (who is regarded as the “second Buddha.”) .From the Dzong, walk further down to Nyamai Zampa, an oldest traditional cantilever bridge in Bhutan.
Overnight at a hotel in Paro.
Day 05 Oct 6 Monday: A Day Hike to Taktsang Ghoempa ( Tiger’s Nest Monastery) in Paro
After breakfast, hike to Taktsang Goempa (Tiger’s Nest Monastery). The hike upto the viewpoint will take about 1 1/2 hours and from there you will enjoy a spectacular view of the monastery clinging to the side of the cliff.You will stop here for refreshments and then hike further upto the monastery which should take another 1 1/2 hours.
It was first built in 1692, around the Taktsang Senge Samdup, a cave where Guru Padmasambhava is said to have meditated for three months in the 8th century. It is believed that Guru Rinpoche (Guru Padmasambhava) flew to this location from Khenpajong, Tibet on the back of a tigress and subdued a demon. He then performed meditation in one of the caves here and emerged in eight incarnated forms (manifestations) and blessed the place. Subsequently, the place came to be known as the “Tiger’s Nest”. Guru Padmasambhava is known for introducing Buddhism to Bhutan. Today, Paro Taktsang is the best known of the thirteen caves in which he meditated.
After visiting the monastery, walk back downhill to the road with lunch at the viewpoint cafeteria. Then drive back to your hotel after visiting Kichu Lhakhang on the way. Kichu Lhakhang, one of the 108 temples built in the 7th century by the Tibetan King Songsten Gampo. The story goes that a giant demon lay across the whole area of Tibet and the Himalayas and was preventing the spread of Buddhism. To overcome her, King Songtsen Gampo decided to build 108 temples, which would be placed on all the points of her body. Of these 108 temples, 12 were built in accordance with precise plans. Thus, it happened that in about the year AD 638 the temple of Jokhang in Lhasa was built over the very heart of the demon.
In the evening relax and overnight at a hotel in Paro.
Day 06 Oct 7 Tuesday: Depart Paro
After breakfast,agent from whitelotus tours and treks will see you off at the Paro International Airport for your onward journey.